To be a conscious, black gay man trying to date in the LGBT community is to be a masochist. We expect the experience will be stressful and tedious, but we participate anyway, hoping the next time will be different.
Most of the time it isn’t.
From objectification to blatant racism, the types of messages gay black men receive on dating apps run the gamut—and it’s getting worse. In the article “Trump’s America, Racism on Gay Dating Apps is Getting Worse,” journalist Nico Lang spoke with a number of queer people of color and found that “slurs, threats, and rejection are driving many [of them] to retreat further into romantic defeat and isolation.”
White readers might ask themselves: “Is it really that bad?”
The short answer: Yes.
Two weeks ago, I messaged someone with a friendly, innocuous “hello.” He replied by calling me a nigger and writing in all caps, “HAIL TRUMP!”
I won’t take the time right now to unpack the issue of racism in the gay community disguised as “sexual preferences” (but you can do your own reading here, here, and here). I will, however, discuss why the messages black gay men are receiving are problematic and in poor—if not ignorant—taste.
“How big is it?”
If I earned a dollar for everytime I message someone “hello” and their first response is “how hung?” I could afford avocado toast and buy a home. The problem here is obvious: You’re reducing a person to his genitalia; I only exist to fulfill your sexual needs and you’re not interested in me as a person. Black men have a history of being reduced to only their bodies (dates back to slavery, look it up), so there’s some sensitivity around this topic, to put it mildly.
“I love black guys.”
I’m never quite sure how to respond to this message. Do I break into a Sally Field, you-like-me-you-really-like-me speech? Or I do let him know that he doesn’t win cool-points for being attracted to me based on stereotypes he’s associating with my race? When I hear this, I wonder what stereotype I’m going to be expected to act out, and so I opt-out.
“I’ve never been with a black guy.”
This falls into the fetishizing category of point two. I consider myself a sex-positive person and I totally get people want to explore. But this kind of exploration is all about you and I only exist for your experimentation.
“I’m not usually into black guys.”
Translation: “I have limited experience interacting with black men and have based my opinion on media portrayals, which often depict them negatively. But you seem different, and oh, I thought all black men looked like Wesley Snipes.” First of all, Wesley Snipes used to be fine. Second of all, am I supposed to be flattered by being your exception? I’m not.
“You’re not a top? What a waste.”
Media have depicted black men as aggressive, hypersexual, and violent for hundreds of years. Academics believe this was constructed as a tool to control slaves and fuel mass incarceration after slavery was abolished. So when you message me asking me how big I am, telling me you love black dudes, and shaming me for not wanting to help you make your Birth of a Nation, Mandigo fantasy come true, I realize Nate Parker’s efforts weren’t completely fruitless.
Lamar Dawson is a pop culture junkie living in Manhattan. Follow him on Instagram at @dirrtykingofpop.